Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union


An Emergency for Essential Workers - A report on the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and health restrictions on NSW workers

Front cover of AMWU NSW report, An Emergency for Essential Workers

View the report (pdf)

The report findings

This report is based on nearly 850 responses to a survey of AMWU NSW members. The results show that there is no consistency when it comes to ensuring safe workplaces for essential workers. 

While many employers seem to be doing the right thing, there appears to be a minority of companies that are completely failing in their legal duty to keep their workers safe.

Shockingly, almost half of the workers surveyed – 48% – believe they have been put at risk of Covid-19 transmission in their workplace.

Only 39% of AMWU members said social distancing is applied at all times in their workplace. 82% of workers said wearing face masks indoors is enforced in their workplace. This statistic leaves a worrying gap of 18% workplaces where this risk-reducing measure is not applied properly. 

A small group of bosses are not even providing their workers with adequate PPE. Only 55% of respondents said their employer has put in place regular extra cleaning of the workplace.

Employers are obliged under workplace health and safety laws to consult continuously with affected workers. 65% of our members said their employer is consulting well with workers on health and safety issues during the lockdown – meaning more than one-third of employers are not meeting this standard.

Where a mandatory Covid testing regime has been introduced, only one-third of employers are paying workers for the time they spend getting tested. In workplaces where vaccination is required, only 38% of employers are providing paid leave for the worker to be immunised.

What the AMWU is calling for

The NSW Government and NSW Health must do more to support and communicate to essential workers dealing with this risk. The AMWU is calling on NSW Health to convene a special Workplace Transmission Committee that includes NSW Health, union representatives, employers and SafeWork NSW.

Additionally, NSW Health should publish each workplace where a positive COVID-19 case has occurred and establish and advertise a Workers’ COVID-19 Emergency Hotline with assistance available in a range of languages.

These workplace protection measures should be complemented by the NSW Government paying people for the time spent getting vaccinated and introducing “test and isolate” payments to ensure workers can stay home without being financially penalised.


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